The following account is factual (mostly?) but I have changed the names to protect the innocent, and the guilty. I might have also taken some artistic freedom with some elements of the story to keep you, the reader, engaged.
The year was 1948. I had been back from the war for a couple of years and had been fighting my way across the dusty praries, trying to make a name for myself in the world of all the new developments sweeping the world. Developments born out of the necessities of war but in the aftermath, sold to unwitting folks as the cure of everything that ails them.
I had been in this town for days, struggling with problems that no man or beast had ever try to surmount. The name of this town? Forever lost in time now, but does it really matter? For me, my hope was fading fast, like the horn player on the stage trying to collect a couple of more bucks from the few patrons left in this no-name bar. The smell of cheap cigarettes and failure hung over everyone as we sat, staring into the abyss that was our future.
I had barely touched the cheap whiskey that this dump served, sitting idly in front of me.
Who am I to lie, I had been here all day, the number of this particular drink had blurred but my struggles still stung like grains of sand hitting me in a hot sun. My struggle with this new fangled machine, barely introduced to me months before, was threatening to put me out of business. I was going to hop the rails and flee from this town, never to be seen again, and fade into the sunset like a bad picture show.
The musician on stage, feeling my sorrow, merciful stopped blowing his horn to let the silence waft over the lost souls, left only to our thoughts and crushed dreams, the remnant of the crushing day who had no where else to be.
It was in this silence, only disturbed by the sound of ice hitting the bottom of a glass, that I heard the stranger for the first time.
I hadn’t noticed this stranger before. Sitting in a corner with no light, the din of the joint masking his every breath, if in fact this stranger was human at all. His face was still hidden in the shadows of the dimly lit corner, his figure blending into the cheap pictures of far-off lands meant to distract the lonely hearts in this place from their miserable fate. I had been to some of those places during the war, the pictures reminding me of better times. Times when I still had hope.
“Hey you, at the bar.”
His voice bringing me back to the 2 bit dump we both occupied at this time.
“You look like someone that needs some help; help that I can give.”
I scoffed. No way any stranger in this dump could have anything to help me. What I was working on was tough! Even the crappy company that made this junk couldn’t answer my plea, their silence driving me here in the first place.
“You can’t help me” I said, “my problems are beyond help at this point.”
As the stranger leaned forward out of the shadow of the corner into the dim light of his table, the look surprised me. During the war, only certain folks sat in corners of dim bars, offering help that usually ended with the unwitting recipient choking down the hot lead that was payback for an unknown crime.
No, the stranger didn’t fit that profile. This stranger had a look in his eye that I could see even through the dim light and smoke that hung in the room; there was the look of someone who had seen many battles, and a seriousness that stopped me in my tracks.
“Listen” he said, “there is help if you want it.”
I turned back to my drink, wanting to take a gulp to get back the burning feeling I was growing accustomed to, not this stranger in the corner. As the whiskey burned down the back of my throat, restoring some order to this strange situation I found myself in, I turned back to the corner.
The stranger wasn’t there.
Frantically I scanned the room, the knot in my stomach going heavier every second. I suddenly regretted the amount of drinks I had, fighting for a clear head from the danger I started to feel.
Suddenly I felt someone behind me. It was him, the stranger! How had this happened? I was suppose to be good, but somehow the situation was out of my control.
The stranger dropped a packet on the bar between me and my drink and I froze.
“Everything you need is in there,” he said “and if you need more, now you know where to find it.”
I twisted on the bar stool to get a better look at this stranger. The look in his eyes was still there from before, but this was the unassuming man is who was in the corner before? Nothing about him stood out to me, other than those eyes. In a crowd, I would have passed him over as a nobody, a nothing, someone moving along with the masses. But here in this bar late at night, I suddenly felt a chill down my back. The stranger was serious. His eyes told stories in an instant of numerous battles and hard won victories. Crushing defeats that rivaled even my current situation, if not more.
I focused back on the packet the stranger had dropped on the bar. As I turned it over the only marking on the outside was of a single number, emblazoned across the packet in a red color that stood out in the yellow light of the bar.
That was it. A red number 6. Was this the clue? How could a red 6 help me?
Intrigued I opened up the packet and started to read the multiple pages that were included. I let out a loud breath, and then muttered some language that is only acceptable between sailors and drunk patrons in crummy bars.
Hurriedly, I started to read the pages faster, memorized by the contents. Everything in here was the answer to my problems! I was saved!
“How is this possible!” I exclaimed out loud to the stranger. “How do you know this?”
Still staring at the pages, I didn’t get a response.
I turned around and all I caught was the back of his head as he walked out the door.
I grabbed my drink and slammed it down, the whiskey no longer burning my throat. I threw some money on the bar, gathered up my new found prize that was the packet with the 6 on it, and hurried out the door, hoping to catch up with the stranger.
By the time I got to the street and started looking left and right, he was gone. A flickering street light my only hope of catching even a glimpse of the stranger. He was gone though. I had lost him.
As I turned to shuffle off to my hotel room that I called home base, I saw something on the ground. It was a coin, but not any coin I had ever seen before. I bent down to pick it up and realized that it was still warm, like it had been in someone’s pocket all night long.
As I examined it, I realized that on one side of the coin was the number 6. The same red 6 that was on my new found prize. This had to have come from the stranger. Was this what he meant when he said now I knew how to find help? Baffled, I felt the booze and despair start to flood back over me, my glimmer of hope dashed in the mystery of a simple red 6.
Dejected, I thought to myself. How could this be? To have such valuable information dropped in my lap, with a promise for more help, only to be left with a mysterious token with a red 6. As the depression finished consuming me, I turned the coin over and found another clue. Instead of a number, there were 3 letters emblazoned on the coin.
I knew what CTS was, it was part of the new technology I was involved in, but for some reason a warm feeling came over me. I think I knew what the stranger was trying to tell me. Confidently, I strutted back to my hotel room, the packet with the red 6 clutched in one hand, the CTS coin firmly in the other.
The stranger from the bar was right, the information that he gave me was exactly the help I needed. Using this new found information I was able to force the company that made the hardware to come clean, and together we solved the problem.
In doing a little bit of investigation I was able to discover a whole community of people dedicated to this same technology, and all of them willing to share the information they had. As far as what “CTS” means and the packet with the red 6, it turns out that was the strangers calling card; the method he had of helping people like me.
As this new fangled technology evolved, it got the point that I could share that same information with you today, hopefully as a way to pay back that stranger in that no-name bar in that no-name town, so many years ago…
If it wasn’t clear, almost nothing in this account is true. The true story is much less deserving of a blog post, but the result of this story? The end result is beyond anything I could have imagined.
What really happened was I was stuck on a problem, and I found a line in the debugs of a couple of APs that stuck out. When I Googled the lines, one of the only results returned was the blog post I linked to above. What impressed me the most was this was information no had been able to give me, and the author of this post, Rowell Dionicio, was giving it away for free. The information contained wasn’t the only information I needed, but it got me headed in the right direction. From there I discovered the Clear To Send podcast, then CWNP, and then WLPC, and it exploded from there. After that has really has been a blur to where I am today.
I know Rowell doesn’t deserve all the credit for everything that has happened since 1948, but the simple fact he wrote a blog about something as innocuous as Cisco NDP and posted it where I could find it, deserves at least a drink on me, don’t you think?